Ask the experts: Baking substitutes

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Ask the experts: Baking substitutes

Q. “A number of your recipes use apple purée as a binding agent and often in place of butter or other fats (as in the HFG chocolate brownie recipe). Can you suggest some alternatives to apple purée as my husband has an allergic reaction to apples (also peaches, nectarines and pears). I’m also dairy-intolerant so alternatives to using dairy fats would be great. I have successfully replaced the apple purée in red onion marmalade with rhubarb but find the taste of rhubarb a bit strong for most baking recipes.”


A. Destitute Gourmet Sophie Gray offers some suggestions:

Apple purée is used to replace sweetness and moisture in low-sugar and low-fat recipes. Because your husband can’t have apples and peaches etc and you can’t eat dairy products, a similar result can be achieved by using purées from other naturally sweet foods. I made the chocolate brownie recipe using purées of dates – one of nature’s best sweeteners – and carrots. Both worked well (I ate lots of the brownie, just to be sure!). Dates also provide a wonderful dark colour, which won’t suit every recipe. The carrot purée was less sweet, and very cheap to make.

You will need to use dairy-free chocolate chopped into chunks instead of chocolate chips. Try Kinnerton or Lindt 70% cocoa solids; both are available in supermarkets. You could add a little dash of vanilla to beef up the chocolate flavour but it’s not included in the original recipe.

For the chocolate brownie recipe, replace apple purée with 1 cup of date purée made from 200g dates soaked in 1 cup of boiling water and processed to a smooth puree. Or: 1 1/4 cups carrots, peeled, chopped and cooked till tender, then puréed with 1/4 cup of the cooking water.

Make purées and freeze them so you can bake whenever you fancy. Try pumpkin, banana or soy yoghurt to add sweetness, tenderness and moisture in cakes and muffins. Often simply replacing 1/2 the fat in a recipe with an equivalent quantity of fruit puree will work, but fat and sugar have other functions in the recipe, supplying colour and flavour, so you’ll have to experiment a bit.

First published: Apr 2007
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